Happy Healthy Giving
Tis' the season when many will make a list and check it twice…giving to both the naughty and nice; but giving is more than a habitual strain on our time and budgets. Whether it is purchasing gifts, volunteering your time with a favorite cause, or donating money to charity, the act of giving may benefit you in ways you did not realize.
Giving now can help you build stronger social connections and even increase your own joy going into the new year.
Can the act of giving to others increase your own lasting happiness?
According to scientific research, the answer is yes! In a capitalist society, gift giving is a means through which we communicate the value we place on others. Whether you are comfortable or put-off by this kind of symbolic exchange, it is useful to consider the act of giving as a social experience that can increase joy for both the giver and receiver. Gift giving is just one of many ways we can demonstrate our good will or affection.
Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and associates found that the act of giving to another person increased the happiness of the givers more than when they spent money on themselves. This may surprise you as it did those participants, since commercialism promotes buying for ourselves as the means to increase our own joy.
Biologists report that when people give to charities, it activates areas of the brain linked to pleasure and connection. Giving releases feel good endorphins in the brain, such as oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, research at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that people who give actually live longer lives.
Our inspiration to give does not expire with our own perspiration.
Sociologists have long recorded that generosity across cultures is likely to be rewarded and reciprocated. Giving opens up the space for this exchange and promotes positive social interactions and increased empathy. Our mental and physical health depends upon reciprocal trust and social connection.
The more we interact and give, the more we affect our community, creating tides of generosity, that eventually return to us in our time of need. Whether you give time, money, gifts or talents this season, may your giving come from the heart and come back to you ten-fold in blessings for the New Year.